The U.S. music scene can be a cruel place for artists trying to make the jump over the Atlantic and onto our shores. Even if it’s a hit in the artist’s home country, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a hit in the States. Songs by acts like Cover Drive, Sak Noel and Tulisa became big number-ones in the U.K. without ever making it over here, while others by Example and Florence + The Machine made it on the Dance Chart, but not on Pop playlists. Some of these British acts have never released here before and others have underperformed on the national charts here this year, but that’s alright. They’ll have another chance to impress American audiences with some new sounds in 2013. Here’s a preview of what’s to come from a few of these acts, still praying for a big breakthrough.
18-year-old Bugg’s been huge on the U.K.’s independent scene, so much so that his self-titled debut album went to #1 in that country. Only one single from his album made it into the top 40 of the Singles Chart there and it’s the same one being tested on the U.S. market. “Two Fingers” goes for Alternative adds at the end of January. Like much of his album, it’s country and folk-tinged tune that you can clap and tap your feet to. It’s a song about longing for independence and leaving all the non-essentials behind. It’ll take you a while before you come to the realization that this is indeed a young person singing and writing this and not an older, more experienced performer. This one has zero chance of crossing over to the mainstream formats, but if Bugg gets the recognition at Alternative and AAA radio, he should be very proud of himself.
MARINA & THE DIAMONDS
This one-woman band, originally born in Wales, has been a strong seller on Album Chart in the United Kingdom. Debut album The Family Jewels attained a peak of #5 and shipped Gold and her latest release, Electra Heart, was certified Silver earlier this year after hitting the top spot. The leadoff single, “Primadonna”, went to #11 on the U.K. Singles Chart, and made a minor splash on the U.S. Pop airplay chart, rising to #39. It was most likely dismissed as a Katy Perry sound-alike by radio programmers, though Marina’s roots go deeper than that. She has a socially-conscious dance-pop sound, especially on her latest release, a concept album of sorts about the American Dream and the negative shades of it as seen through the lens of a ruthless young female. She’ll be trying again in the U.S. in 2013 with second single “How To Be A Heartbreaker”, which is even more radio-friendly and will hopefully her first big single in the States. It goes for adds in January. I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to it over the past few months. With a rocking guitar line mixed with her rule book-style lyrics, it should entice a wider audience to her music. Sometimes you gotta go more simple to break the scene: that’ll teach ’em how to be a chartbreaker.
Since placing second on his season of The X Factor, Murs has been a consistent seller on the charts, racking up four number-one singles in the United Kingdom in a period of two years. One of those, “Heart Skips A Beat”, was released in the U.K. in a version featuring rap duo Rizzle Kicks. When the song was sent to the U.S., a new version was recorded featuring a rap break from duo Chiddy Bang. Despite two videos filmed and numerous appearances, the song couldn’t make it past the top 30 on CHR radio. His album, Right Place, Right Time, has been pushed back until April here (though a certain someone already ordered the U.K. deluxe edition, I wonder who) but for good reason. His recent #1 hit in his native U.K., “Troublemaker”, will be released to CHR radio here in the States in early January. It bears a similar guitar line to Maroon 5‘s “Misery” from 2009 but in a different key, and knowing the tween audience, I would doubt they’d remember it. Bottom line is, it’s insanely catchy and even an appearance by Flo Rida is harmless in the general scheme of things. Murs deserves a chance to have a successful career in the States. Will he successfully cause some Trouble in 2013? It remains to be seen.
You’ve probably heard about this lady in the press recently after an ex-boyfriend blasted her on Twitter, but since that other party is irrelevant and just wants attention (it runs in that family), that’s as far as I’ll go with that one. Luckily, Ora has far more talent than he does, racking up three number-one singles and one number-one album in the United Kingdom. Two of her singles, “How We Do (Party)” and “R.I.P.”, became minor radio hits here in the States. The latter single was initially issued with rapper Tinie Tempah, but Drake replaced him for the U.S. version. Stuck in a rut and on the verge of getting her album shelved here in the States, Ora is now releasing a third single, “Radioactive”, due at U.S. radio early next week. The chorus has an anthem-like quality and the dance-pop sound of it would fit in neatly on today’s radio. If not a Pop smash, it’ll certainly take the Dance chart by storm. As the old saying goes, third time is the charm. Let’s see if it’s really true for Ora and her U.S. standing.
SAM & THE WOMP
File this one in the same folder with Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP‘s “We No Speak Americano”. A #1 hit in the United Kingdom in July 2010, it took until November to peak in the United States, and it only became a minor-charting hit mainly because it was such a polarizing Dance single. The debut single from this trio, “Bom Bom”, which hit the top in the U.K. back in August, casually strutted into the CHR top 50 just a few days ago. You’re either going to love or hate this one; it’s in-your-face and features a pulsating rapped vocal as well as some trumpet solos that almost sound African-influenced. The duo hasn’t charted in the U.K. since, so expect this one to be their only charting record on both shores. Radio might be on the fence with this one, but if consumers start catching onto it, it may just become inescapable in the new year.
Of course, more U.K. sensations will be taking their chance on the U.S. as the year goes on. I’ve noted Stateside efforts by Conor Maynard and The Saturdays in earlier posts. Here’s to you, British acts. May the odds ever be in your favor.